UNIFIED – HIV Health and Beyond announced Monday that President and CEO William VanHemert is leaving to take a new position with an agency in California. The news marks the second executive level defection in recent months. Jimena Loveluck, UHHB’s vice president of community research and innovation, left in July to become the deputy health director for the Washtenaw County Health Department.
VanHemert has a history with UHHB that dates back some 20 years.
“I started as a volunteer when it was Wellness Networks in Ferndale and moved from volunteer to being president and CEO,” VanHemert said. “I’m really going to miss the staff at Unified, just the connections that I’ve had here and the committed staff.”
Wellness Networks. Inc. was founded in 1983 and later became AIDS Partnership Michigan, the state’s oldest AIDS service organization. In 2015, APM merged with the HIV/AIDS Resource Center and became UNIFIED – HIV Health and Beyond. The merger brought together more than 60 years of experience and made UHHH the largest AIDS Service Provider in the state. UHHH has offices in Detroit, Jackson and Ypsilanti and serves 10 counties in Southeast Michigan.
VanHemert served as director of prevention and education services for AIDS Partnership Michigan from 1993-1996 before moving to Arizona and, later, San Francisco. He returned to Michigan and AIDS Partnership Michigan in 2009 becoming the agency’s community mobilization/development director. In 2013 VanHemert became APM’s executive director when longtime ED Barbara Murray retired. By this time, APM was having strategic restructuring discussion with HARC. Following the merger of the two agencies, which was finalized in 2015, VanHemert became president and CEO of the new combined agency.
Now, VanHemert plans to relocate to Palm Springs to become the director of grants for the Desert AIDS Project.
“It’s bittersweet,” said VanHemert. “I am totally committed to what Unified is doing and the direction the agency is going in.”
But VanHemert was scouted and the position in Palm Springs proved to be too good to turn down.
“Desert AIDS Project is really a leader in the field of HIV and AIDS,” he said. “They were recognized by the White House for their state of the art services. Plus I previously lived in San Francisco so just moving back to the west coast is comfortable for me.”
According to a statement, the UHHB board is now planning to conduct a search for VanHemert’s replacement.
“While the Board conducts a search for the new UHHB President and CEO, we have appointed Angelique (Angel) Tomsic to be Interim UHHB President and CEO,” said Laura Marble, UHHB’s board chair. “Akilah Benton was named the Interim Vice President of Community Research and Advocacy, reporting to Angel. Angel has been with UHHB since 2007. She will also continue in her role as Vice President of Operations.”
Tomsic, however, only joined the executive leadership team last year and Benton only became the community mobilization and research manager following Loveluck’s departure. So from outward appearances it looks like VanHemert’s departure might leave the agency with a gap in leadership experience.
“I don’t see it as a gap,” VanHemert said. “There will be leadership within the agency and the board is very committed to moving the agency forward.”
For his part, VanHemert is committed to moving forward as well, and said he is excited about joining the Desert AIDS Project’s team.
“I’m looking forward to becoming a part of their team and assisting them in my position as director of grants to continue their growth,” VanHemert said. “They became a federally qualified health center during the transition when the affordable care act came onboard. So they have really blossomed and grown and I look forward to becoming a part of that team and expanding my opportunities as well.”